Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
You’ve decided you’re not going to do it. You’re not going to bring your old baggage, negative patterns and ancient pain into your new, shiny relationship. This time it’s going to be different. This time, they will be able to give you exactly what you need and you’ll be able to handle yourself perfectly. This time, you’re not going to do that thing you always do, because you love them, you care for them, you don’t want to hurt them in any way.
You see where this is going, right? When the first real fight hits, or the first crack in the crystal appears, it might be shocking at first, but very quickly we slip back into patterns we recognize from previous relationships. How is that possible? This person we’re with is completely different? We’re not the same we used to be, right? We know so much better now!
The thing is, you never really go anywhere without your past. Those who say they’ve ‘left their past behind‘ either mean they have pushed it away (trust me, it’s nowhere near gone) or have integrated it (it’s not gone either, it’s just lost its hold over the present version of you.) We take our trauma’s with us for as long as we live, that is, and ideally we have integrated them.
How can you recognize trauma that comes up in your relationship? How do you know you’re reacting from a deeper root cause, or that your partner is doing so? One of the red flags for me, is when I see or hear myself doing or saying things that don’t match how I feel in my happiest moments. I’m usually very happy with my partner, but when I get triggered in old trauma, I’ll hear stories in my head that want to discount what we have together.
Another red flag is any emotion that seems mismatched or overly strong in a specific situation. My fear of attachment may lead me to get wary about taking longer vacations together, whereas my partner’s fear of abandonment might lead to feeling fear over small disagreements.
So how do you fix it? What’s the cure-all for getting rid of trauma in your relationship? This will come as absolutely no surprise here: there isn’t one. What you can do, however, is deal with the trauma that presents itself, whether it’s your own or your partner’s.
After you become aware of your own trauma-based responses, you can communicate about them openly to your partner. Talk about how things trigger you, and make sure to express that this trigger has nothing to do with your partner. They are not responsible for your response. If you are willing to do so, you can also assure your partner that you are dealing with whatever is going on inside of you.
Do you see your partner react in ways that leave you puzzled? You can invite them to do the same and to share what they are feeling, which thoughts accompany these feelings and where they recognize them from. If your partner lashes out at you due to trauma, know that this is not your responsibility either. It doesn’t really have anything to do with you, but you can be important in helping them deal with it, in supporting them through it.
Luckily, we bring way more than trauma to our relationships. We also bring all of our talents, our playfulness, our tenderness, our joy and our love. In sharing our painful parts, we can also display some of those qualities. We learn how to respond with empathy and tenderness, and we learn how to deal with our own trauma’s in an equally empathetic and tender way.
In short, no, your relationship won’t be the place where you get to escape your trauma’s. But if you’re lucky, it might just be the place where you can find someone who’s willing to help you heal them. ❤